Saturdays in Athens

George Somerville. Saturday 18th July 2020

Welcome to our weekly round up of life in the Southeastern Conference.

Sadly the Covid crisis continues to dominate the headlines as the debate about a will there, won’t there be a season continues. But there is some good new for Georgia and Kentucky fans this week, and a stark warning from SEC coaches if you want football at all. Oh and there’s some mask banter from Kiffin and Leach….

So, here are this weeks headlines….

Top Dawg

Photo Credit:AP Photo/Kyusung Gong


Athens, GA.


Good news at last for Bulldog fans! And news which sets up the most intriguing quarterback battle that college football has seen in many years.

This week, ex-USC quarterback JT Daniels received a waiver for immediate eligibility from the NCAA to .play football at UGA this season.

Given that Daniels was recovering from a serious injury sustained in the first game of last season, many thought he would forego this year, allowing Jamie Newman to play out his final year of eligibility. This would mean Daniels stepping into Newman’s shoes in 2021.

But if that was the plan, the plan was ripped up this week with news of the successful waiver hitting Kirby Smart’s desk.

And so the battle for QB1 begins.

Jamie Newman arrived from Wake Forest as a graduate transfer in January to a fanfare and the widely held view that he was the missing link in Georgia’s search for a National Championship. Bulldog fans were cockahoop.

But at the end of the 2019 season, Daniels announced to the football world that he would be transferring. The question was where.

Georgia was a surprise to many, given Newman’s heralded arrival. So the theory of Daniels  sitting for a year grew momentum.

But the news from NCAA headquarters means that Daniels will be immediately eligible. Whilst his injury was sustained in the first game of his sophomore season, Daniels threw for 14 touchdowns in his freshman year at USC and is considered a talent. He lost the starting spot with the Trojans to wunderkind, Kedon Slovis.

In 2019, Jamie Newman threw for 2,868 years and 26 touchdowns making him an under-the-radar contender for the Heisman should the season go ahead.

But first he needs to fend off the irrepressible Californian.

Get the popcorn out and sit back. This will be must watch TV.


Healthy Cats

Image Credit: University of Kentucky Athletics


Lexington, KY.

Let’s continue with the positive news. It feels good, doesn’t it!!

Last week the University of Kentucky announced that it was changing it’s testing policy in respect of the Covid-19 virus. The change was to move away from the testing of antibodies and to move to testing for the virus itself.

Many other schools have experienced high levels of positive tests, so there must have been some sharp intakes of breath when the results were made available from the latest batch.

But good news according to the father of UK’s kicker Chance Poore, who tweeted that the tests returned no positive results. Lewis Poore confirmed that of the 161 players and coaches tested there were zero positive results for the virus. 

This is indeed fantastic news for the Wildcats and their fans. 


Wear Your Damn Mask!

Image Credit: SEC via Twitter


Birmingham, AL.


When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

And they don’t get much tougher than the head coaches of the South Eastern Conference.

We know that the likelihood of an SEC football season, even just in conference-only mode, is hanging in the balance. So when your head coach tells you to wear a mask, I’m fairly sure you do as you are told. Ok, well YOU tell Coach O then…

But still a smart move by the SEC to issue the short video showing all the head coaches wearing masks. As we know, sports personalities, especially head football coaches hold much gravitas in their communities, and much more than any politician will ever do.

With time running out, let’s hope that SEC fans listen.

#SECfootball #ItJustMeansMore

The Odd Couple

Photo credit: Chris Carlson/Associated Press


Oxford, MS.


Prior to both coaches ending up in Mississippi, Leach and Kiffin were kings of Twitter. Kiffin was most famous for trolling Nick Saban and Mike Leach unleashing the wisdom of Leach on the world. It has been and continues to be box office.

Perhaps with the world the way it has been over the last several months, both men’s twitter accounts have been quieter than usual. But there is no denying that with both coaches now in the Magnolia State, interest in the Egg Bowl will reach fever pitch. If it happens.

But before this, both men continue to amuse us with the humour and wackiness of two of the most eccentric coaches in the sport. And best of all, they put it all on twitter for our entertainment. 

This week the Coaches indulged in some mask banter…


and then there was this from Mike Leach…..


Image credit: Clarence Cromwell, Creative Quickies


Birmingham, al.

In order of priorities we are at a simple stage. First priority is to have football in the fall. To do so the proposal thus far from the Big 10 and Pac 12 is to play conference games only. The SEC has not committed its opinion yet. But for many, conference only means the disappearance of rivalry games which have been in existence longer than some conferences.

This week in Birmingham at a meeting of SEC Athletic Directors with Greg Sankey, the subject of out of conference rivalry games came up.

South Carolina’s Ray Tanner said in an interview with Radio show Sports Talk SC, that

“if they were in a position to play, South Carolina would work to keep that annual rivalry game with Clemson”.

Tanner confirmed that he has been in communication with Clemson’s Athletic Director about keeping those rivalry games across all sports.

At the same time, Florida A.D. Scott Strickland made similar overtures towards the Gators rivalry game with Florida State.

“If we are able to get to the point where we can play a game. When we get to that point, I want to play that FSU game. It’s very important to the State of Florida and to both schools”.

And what of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate? Well the last time that UGA and Georgia Tech didn’t line up against each other during the season was 1924 as a result of World War I.

But there is hope.

According to who quote Gary Stoken, the CEO of Peach Bowl Inc who said,

“What we’ve suggested is if they play conference games only plus one game -because we know the ACC and SEC like to play their rivalry games – if they went in that direction, then we’d provide an alternative”.

Cross everything you have.

#GoGamecocks #GoGators #GoDawgs

Under The Knife

Photo credit: University of Tennessee Athletics


Knoxville, TN.

The Vols have been on a high in recent weeks, but news out of Knoxville has slowed that momentum.

On Thursday, senior tight end Austin Pope confirmed that he had herniated a disc in his back and as a result had undergone surgery.

Sadly this is not the first operation for a back issue, with Pope undergoing the same procedure in 2019. That resulted in him missing games last campaign, in what was an injury ravaged season for the 235 pound, 6’4” tight end.

Regarded as TE2 in Knoxville, this is an early set back for Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols. No date has been set for his return.

Wishing the big guy a speedy recovery.


And Finally...

Nick Saban Is Nice
Photo credit: Jim Burgess, SEC Sports


Birmingham, AL.

News just out of Birmingham, literally as I wait for this to be edited.

On Friday, the SEC advised that:

“any student athlete who elected not to participate during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to Covid-19 will continue to have their scholarships honoured”

This is huge news for student athletes in the SEC, giving them complete piece of mind at a time when they need it most. A conference supporting it’s student athletes in their hour of need? Bravo.